SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Beads are being thrown and pancakes are being cooked by the dozen … it must be Mardi Gras. That means the solemn feast of Ash Wednesday is just around the corner.

The Episcopal Church of St. Andrew and Holy Communion is reaching out to commuters who wish to observe the start of Lent but are unable to attend church. The Rev. Canon Dr. Sandye Wilson, the church’s rector, will be distributing ashes early Wednesday morning at the South Orange train station.

From 5:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., Wilson will offer ashes to any who wish to receive them. It is the third year that she has been distributing ashes to commuters at the train station and, she said, the turnout has been great. 

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“People are extraordinarily busy,” Wilson said. She acknowledges that South Orange is a commuter community and that many people cannot make a Mass because their commute took them out of the town too early or brought them home too late.

Wilson also emphasized her belief that it is important to “take the good news of God out into the world, rather than expecting people to find it.”

“We’re looking forward to a wonderful day tomorrow,” she said. Though the church is Episcopal, ashes are offered to all who want them, regardless of denomination. “We’ll be out there yelling ‘Ashes to go! Ashes to go!’”

Ashes will be offered on both sides of the station.

Morgan Tornetta is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.